Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Still tilting at Obamacare, as the numbers pile up

Littwin: Still tilting at Obamacare, as the numbers pile up

You don’t have be a mathematician, or a scientist, to understand the numbers. Any way you add them up, it looks as if Obamacare is actually working.

Here’s a brief summary, via the Obama administration, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and the Congressional Budget Office:

There are more people signed up than anticipated. The cost of Obamacare is predicted to be significantly less than anticipated. Insurance premiums are rising at a slower rate than anticipated. Medical costs are rising at a slower pace than anticipated. Fewer employers are dumping plans than anticipated.

There are problems, of course. There are still too many uninsured. There are those many states refusing to expand Medicaid despite the billions of federal dollars left on the table. There are rural districts where people don’t have sufficient access to doctors and hospitals and where costs are unreasonably high.

Across the states, 16.5 million people have insurance due to Obamacare. In Denver, the rate of insured residents has risen to 94 percent.

And there is King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court case that may just scuttle the whole thing.

The case is indicative of the one problem that everyone could have anticipated: When it comes to Obamacare, no matter how much things change, nothing seems to change at all.

But there are the numbers. According to the White House, 14.1 million people have enrolled in either private insurance or Medicaid since Obamacare began. That’s a big deal, of course. That’s a life-changing deal. Another 2.3 million people under the age of 26 are insured on their family plan. The percentage of uninsured has fallen by a third. According to Be Healthy Denver and Denver Health, the rate of Denver residents insured has risen to 94 percent.

There’s more. The CBO estimates Obamacare costs at $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s a lot of money, of course, but previous CBO estimates had the cost at $1.5 trillion. A $300 billion reduction is nothing to sneeze at (although if you are sneezing, your doctor visit may now be covered.)

But however good the numbers may look, that doesn’t change this simple fact: For the Obamacare obsessed, there are numbers and there are numbers — and none of them could ever translate as success.

Reserve your seat for the next — I believe it would be the 57th — House vote to repeal, not replace, Obamacare, and you’ll hear the same things you heard in the previous 56.

Obamacare is a train wreck. It’s a job killer, even if the job market is pumping jobs like the frackers are pumping oil. Now, if it’s not a job killer, it’s a good-job killer. Anyway, it’s broken promises or lies of the year. It’s canceled health policies. It’s mandates.

And why stop there? It’s the end of America as we know it, and if you don’t believe me, just wait for the coming Republican presidential debates, in which Obamacare doom will square off against Obamacare gloom 10 to 16 times over.

Yes, Obamacare is looking to be a success by its own standards. But what if you never accepted Obamacare standards? What if you think the high rates of uninsured aren’t your problem? What if you think you can pay for pre-existing conditions just by saying you can? What if you question the CBO numbers and certainly don’t trust the Obama numbers? What if you think that the only unskewable polls are those showing a solid majority of Americans still opposed to Obamacare?

So we have two competing stories: To the surprise of many, Obamacare seems to be working. And to the surprise of no one, the fight over Obamacare is never ending.

Which brings us, of course, to King v. Burwell and the Supreme Court, which will render a verdict in late June that could destroy Obamacare, sending it into the dreaded death spiral — much scarier than the death panels — in which subsidies for those 7.5 million insured through the federal exchanges come to end, meaning many will have to drop their policies, meaning the prices will go up, meaning more will drop out, meaning, well, you can see where it’s headed.

The case rests on four words in Section 36B — referring to exchanges “established by the State” — suggesting Congress didn’t want those who can’t afford insurance to have their policies subsidized unless the states set up their own exchanges. No one actually believes that, particularly no one who actually tuned into CSPAN for the endless debates.

But at an American Enterprise Institute meeting in 2010, just after the law passed, lawyers were tasked to find something, anything, with which to attack it in the courts.

In the oft-quoted words of AEI scholar Michael Greve: “This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene. I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it.”

And so they found the four words. And now no one knows how the case will turn out, except that if Obamacare opponents lose, as they did the last time in a 5-4 decision, they’ll be back again. Millions could lose their insurance, but when it comes to Obamacare, 5-4 may be the only numbers that matter.

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin


  1. fishingblues on said:

    So, all Nitttwit needs to do to find out if obamacare is working is ask the obama administration. Top notch journalism, Mike. Dang thorough research. I guess it satisfied your self-fulfilling prophecy.

  2. Don Lopez on said:

    Mr. Littwin has, apparently, recovered from his Letter to Iran tantrum and has moved on to a more substantive issue and the one that helped Republicans regain control of the Senate last November: Obamacare.

    He sees no conflict in the fact that the source of most of the feel-good Obamacare statistics he quotes come from the Obama administration where—much like Mr. Littwin’s columns—reality is kept at a distance.

    “The (King v. Burwell) case rests on four words in Section 36B — referring to exchanges “established by the State” — suggesting Congress didn’t want those who can’t afford insurance to have their policies subsidized unless the states set up their own exchanges. No one actually believes that,”

    Really? No one?

    As Mr. Littwin continues to lengthen the distance between himself and reality we should examine the words of someone who, unlike Mr. Littwin, was actually involved in the writing of Obamacare: MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. Mr. Gruber’s name may not be familiar to those who regularly read Mr. Littwin’s column and there’s a reason for that: His default position is to avoid, deflect and ignore those who diminish his opinions and Mr. Gruber is certainly in that group.

    Mr. Gruber was a paid technical advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services, an informal advisor to Democrats in Congress and an architect of the Affordable Care Act. He has come under fire for claiming Obamacare’s authors took advantage of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

    Yes, he actually said that.

    But that’s not all he said about Obamacare. He also said, as reported by CBS News,” I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill.”

    He has since recanted, saying “I honestly don’t remember why I said that.” Well, and this is pure speculation, he may have said it because it’s true.

    And here’s what else the CBO said about Obamacare as reported last month by the New York Post:

    “The one-two punch: Virtually as many Americans will lack health coverage in 10 years as before the law was passed — but 2 million fewer will be working than if the law hadn’t passed.

    One killer detail comes on Page 111, where the report projects: “As a result of the ACA, between 6 million and 7 million fewer people will have employment-based insurance coverage each year from 2016 through 2024 than would be the case in the absence of the ACA.

    ObamaCare’s key selling point was that it would give coverage to a significant number of the 30-plus million Americans who lack it. Now the CBO is telling the American people that a decade from now, 6 million-plus of their countrymen won’t get health care through their employers who otherwise would have.
    Even more damaging is this projection: “About 31 million nonelderly residents of the United States are likely to be without health insurance in 2024, roughly one out of every nine such residents.

    Why? Because, in selling the bill to the American people in a nationally televised September 2009 address, President Obama said the need for ObamaCare was urgent precisely because “there are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.”

    Now the CBO is saying that in 10 years about the same number of people will lack insurance as before. This, after new expenditures of as much as $2 trillion and a colossal disruption of the US medical system.

    If that’s not startling enough, there’s also the telling projection about ObamaCare’s affect on employment — “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.”

    Why didn’t Mr. Littwin include that CBO finding? Avoid, deflect, ignore.

    “On Wednesday evening, two police officers from neighboring departments were shot by a would-be assassin as a crowd protested outside of the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. The attempted murder is hardly surprising. Most law enforcement officers presumed it would only be a matter of time before such a tragedy would occur again.” USA Today March 13, 2015

    “I marched with many people back in those days and I have reached out to some of my friends who marched with me, and all of them are shocked,” Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) told Breitbart News. “They never thought they would see this day that gay rights would be equated with civil rights. Not one agreed with this comparison.
    President Obama is a disgrace to the black community,” Owens said. “He is rewriting history. We didn’t suffer and die for gay marriage.”

    “Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer (Darren Wilson) involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The federal investigation did not uncover any facts that differed significantly from the evidence made public by the authorities in Missouri late last year. ” New York Times January 21, 2015

    “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
    President Obama redefining “randomly”

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Folds of Honor Foundation
    Wounded Warrior Project
    Memorial Day – May 25, 2015

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